TARRAGON

If you’re not familiar with tarragon, then I highly recommend you give it a try. It has a lovely, delicate flavor that blends beautifully with egg dishes in particular. Tarragon has a slight hint of licorice, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s nothing like licorice candy. Add tarragon to an omelette, egg salad, or deviled eggs. Delicious!

Tarragon is easy to grow under the right conditions: warm, sunny to partly sunny, well-drained soil. It’s one of the few herbs that does relatively well in shady areas, although it prefers sun. However, it does NOT like to get too hot. If you’re growing it in a hot climate, you’ll want to plant it where it will get morning sun and dappled shade in the afternoon. You can harvest the leaves from July until fall. It’s cold hardy in zones 4-9, but a little extra mulch in the winter won’t hurt.

Also known as Dragon Herb, tarragon was traditionally used for “curing the bites and stings of venomous beasts and of mad dogs” according to Mrs. M. Grieve in A Modern Herbal. Although not prominently mentioned as a healing herb, it is commonly believed to be beneficial for sleep, digestion, water retention, poor appetite, anorexia, and amenorrhea.

Tarragon has a high level of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins A, B, and C. Note that the use of large medicinal doses of tarragon over an extended period of time is not recommended due to the presence of estragole, an oil that might be carcinogenic in high concentrations. However, eating tarragon as a food, even every day, is not believed to have any contraindications, unless you’re allergic to herbs in the ragweed family of which it’s a member.

French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is the one with the best and classic flavor, although Mexican or Texas (Tagetes lucida) tarragon is also nice. It grows well in hot sunny gardens and is quite prolific, producing larger leaves and pretty yellow flowers (see below). Chop of the leaves and mix with softened butter. Put in freezer bags (or ice cube trays) and freeze for use throughout the year.

Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, original article published June 2013

References:

Grieve. A Modern Herbal (©1931)
Tierra. The Way of Herbs (©1980)

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